Thursday, November 18, 2010

New adventures in cooking

Maybe it's because it's getting cold outside and curling up on the couch with a hot bowl of soup that's been stewing for hours sounds so inviting, or maybe just because I've gotten bored with our staple meals, I've decided it was time to dust off the old cookbooks (aka, epicurious) and get cooking.

A few notes:

  • So far I've made 3 trips to whole foods, and 4 meals. Hopefully, I'll get more efficient with my shopping as I go.
  • With each meal, I'm learning more about the foods that Paul like and dislikes (Likes: snow peas! Dislikes: Cumin, Ginger, Sesame Oil :-( )
  • I broke down and bought the online subscription to America's Test Kitchen. I used to have a paper subscription to Cooks' Illustrated, which I loved, but honestly, it just wasn't all that convenient when you wanted, say, a pork chop recipe ("Was that in May or March of 2007?"). The online subscription is easily searchable and cheaper than the original, but lacks the same beautiful illustrations. Already, I've used it to suss out curry powder, french onion soup and kitchen timers.
[not my picture]

Meal 1: Beef, Shiitake and Snow Pea Stirfry
I'd give this one a 4 out of 5. Paul felt like there was something sorta missing. I marinated the beef for a few hours in the hoisin and chili (but I followed the advice of some of the reviewers and replaced some hoisin with soy - I will not do this next time and hopefully that will address Paul's concern). This was really easy. I'll definitely make it again.

[my pictures - taken with iphone :(]

Meal 2: Hawaiian Pork with Stirfried Cabbage
This one was probably a 3 out of 5. The pork was way too salty (and this coming from a self-proclaimed savory person) and the cabbage was bland. The plus side was that braising the pork made it delicious and tender even for really lean cuts. I think I'll make this again, but with low-sodium broth and maybe adding dark rum or pineapple to add a little deeper flavor.

Meal 3: French Onion Soup
For this one, I went to ATK. I feel like for classics like this, I trust that they have scoured all the recipes I'd find on epicurious, tested them all and come up with this, the perfect French Onion Soup. And honestly, yes, this was definitely the best French Onion Soup I've ever had (and I've been to France!). And it was relatively easy. They recommend caramelizing the onions in the oven, which, if time-consuming, is low maintenance. And I bought the gruyere they recommended too. Really, this soup was awesome. 5 out of 5!

Meal 4: Curried Lamb and Lentil Stew
You'd think after that last review, I would never go back to epicurious, but somehow, I'd already picked this one out, and I did go to ATK to determine what curry powder to get (Penzey's, which I made a special trip for). Alas, this recipe failed on many levels. It was one note (even a good one note of the Penzey's curry powder didn't make up for it), the cook times were completely wrong - it needed a minimum of 2 hours to make the lamb and lentils tender, the balance between lamb and lentils was off. I tried to salvage by adding some maple syrup to add some sweetness, which helped, but this just wasn't the meaty stew I was hoping for. 1 out of 5.

Tonight, we're trying out Tuna Tacos ala East Coast Grill, one of our favorite local eateries. I'm hopeful that this will be delicious, but I'll let you know tomorrow.


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